By Grant Jones
The way patrons consume sports entertainment has prompted clubs to offer more time, space and sense of place than traditional sports bars.
A couple of flat screens, some high tables and stools, wagering consoles and burgers don’t cut the mustard as a sports bar these days. Just ask any club manager. Look at any of the renovations featured in Club Management and you will see that clubs are pulling out all stops to offer the most appealing sports bars in town.
From the Moama Bowling Club on the picturesque Murray River to North Lakes Sports Club in Brisbane, new sports bar builds now include everything your armchair expert could want. From craft beer bars and on-trend hotdogs with loaded fries and massive TV screens with directional speaker systems, to high-top tables and comfortable stools or linger-longer armchairs and coffee tables, today’s sports bar should put you in the thick of the action.
The ultimate all-round experience
Mark Sturdy from Entain Australia, which operates Neds and Ladbrokes, believes the growth in sports bars relies on much more than big screens and top-quality sound. He said a winning model must offer the ultimate sports experience that compares favourably to actually being at the ground.
“It’s more than just putting screens on the wall and getting people in,” Sturdy said. “It needs to be the ultimate experience, one where your mate goes, ‘Have you seen that sports bar down the road?’.
“Consistency and commitment to live sport is key, if customers intuitively know on a Friday night they can go to their local club and watch their sport of choice, they’ll be far more likely to choose your venue, than a venue that flips between one sport to another, week to week.”said
Outside of sporting fixtures, flexibility to adapt zones within a sports bar to offer multiple levels of entertainment, helps ensure visitation to the area all week, said Sturdy.
At the flick of a switch, a sports bar can now offer poker, trivia and late-night entertainment with DJs or live bands, said Sturdy whose Entain business has recently purchased Full House Group with brands including Australian Poker League, Sportspick, GameOn, innQUIZitive, QuizzaMe and DJ Bingo.
Sports wagering in-venue has changed dramatically over the recent years, Sturdy said. Customers want more than communal form guides, or walls of monitors showing static odds and cash terminals. These elements are becoming less relevant as customers move to wager on their phones and gain information from either their own devices or new innovative ways to distribute information exclusively in venue.
“What hasn’t changed is the connection to a venue and going to the local with mates for a few bets,” he said.
That is helped by localised promotions around key racing events, tipping competitions or punters clubs to create social connections and local competition. Entain’s Sportspick product, for example, has seen an increase of more than 20 per cent in participation, year-on-year, and drives a stronger connection between the venues and their patrons.
“How do you elevate the experience? Our venue sponsorships focus on elevating and innovating the experience to create unique reasons for customers to come to their local every day of the week,” Sturdy said.
“Importantly, we are committed to the continual improvement of our sponsorships to ensure we are exceeding our venue partners and customers expectations.”
Entain’s Sportspick product launched its first Punters Challenge Championships that enables tipsters and their venues to play off against each other in an on-premise, 10-week race-tipping comp that leads to a national final with a prize pool of $25,000.
“This is our toe in the water with a national pool for race tipping and we’re looking forward to elevating this product for Spring Carnival,” Sturdy said.
To read more on the different aspects of a sports bar that make it an ultimate viewing experience, check out the full feature in Club Management magazine below.